Edxie Betts was participating in a political rally in Los Angeles a while back when a man approached Betts and asked whether Betts was a man or a woman. Betts answered, simply, “No.”
The man grew angry, impatient and began insisting that Betts leave the rally.
“Faggot,” the man said. “That shouldn’t be accepted.”
Betts is one of many gender nonconforming or non-binary transgender people in Los Angeles, meaning that the gender assigned to Betts at birth is not the same gender identity Betts uses today. There are two ways to react in this situation, Betts said. At the time, Betts was surrounded by women and proceeded to yell back at the man for his transphobia. Other participants in the rally joined in and supported Betts.
“If I were alone on the street, I wouldn’t have engaged with him. I would have just walked away because those altercations can be life-threatening,” Betts said.
Betts was one of several participants at last Friday’s “Spring into Love” protest which began inside the Beverly Center and eventually spilled out into the streets, shutting down traffic at the intersection of La Cienega Boulevard and 3rd Street for approximately two hours. Several protesters wore fake blood to symbolize the violence afflicted on transgender and gendernonconforming communities. Betts has been a longtime radical activist who currently participates with Los Angeles Queer Resistance, Revolutionary Autonomous Communities and KPFK’s “Resistance Radio”.
The protest was a call for people to be aware of the recent killings of transgender people. Some reports say as low as eight transgender or gender nonconforming people have been killed last year while other reports say the number is 12.
Aniya Parker was killed in Hollywood on Oct. 2, Deshawnda “Ta-Ta” Sanchez was killed in South Los Angeles on Dec. 3 and Zoraida Reyes in Anaheim on June 10. For many people, the simple task of walking down a street or joining a rally may not cause panic. But for others, especially transgender people, it can be a life-or-death situation, according to Betts.
According to Betts, the best way to combat violence against transgender people is to challenge the concept of masculinity and normalcy, and have more comprehensive education on gender that moves away from European concepts of gender — what Betts refers to as “decolonization.”
“When people deviate from these norms, they are met with violence,” Betts said.
So far this year, there have been at least two reported transgender or gender-nonconforming people killed in the California, Yazmin Vash Payne in Los Angeles on Jan. 31 and Taja Gabrielle De Jesus in San Francisco on Feb. 1. The majority of these people killed have also been of color, according to reports. Protesters chose the Beverly Center location to focus on a more affluent and predominantly white community, Betts said. Another participant in the rally was Chella Coleman, a transgender female activist and resident of downtown Los Angeles. Coleman is a survivor of multiple incidents of harassment and physical attacks for being a transgender woman.
“Until we rattle their cages, they won’t pay attention to us,” Coleman said.
According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, there were 12 documented murders of transgender women of color in 2013. Coleman believes the reason trandgender and gender nonconforming people are targeted is a mixture of several factors, such as a lack of comprehensive gender education and rampant misogyny, she said. In addition to better gender education to combat violence against transgender people, Coleman suggests building stronger communities, where people can watch out for each other.
“If I get home late or don’t answer the phone, people get worried. That’s a good thing. That means people are looking out for me,” Coleman said.
According to the FBI’s most recent statistics on hate crimes, 1,402 reported crimes were based on sexual-orientation. Of those crimes, 22.6 percent had an anti-LGBT bias. Additionally, 33 crimes were anti-transgender or anti-gender nonconforming. However, the FBI only recently began keeping track of hate crimes against transgender and gender nonconforming individuals in 2013.
Furthermore, for African American transgender and gender nonconforming people, it’s even more dangerous, according to Coleman.
“Because of the state violence directed at black males, cops can get away with shooting black people. But we also face misogyny and trans-misogyny. It’s a double oppression,” she said.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.